Iowa leaders face new pressure to study climate change

Farm and Food

By Mike Moen, Public News Service-Iowa

The effects of climate change, such as droughts and destructive storms, have been visible across Iowa in recent years. That's prompted calls for state lawmakers to hold more direct talks about solutions.

The Iowa Legislature reconvenes in January. Before that happens, groups like the Center for Rural Affairs want recommendations to address climate change around the state.

And state Rep. Chuck Isenhart - D-Dubuque - joined the request for an interim committee to study the matter before next session. He noted a panel with the National Conference of State Legislatures just adopted a climate change directive, and that should spur more action.

"The states are seeing that climate change is unfortunately here to stay," said Isenhart, "and we need to start taking it more seriously."

The Legislative Council, which approves interim committees, recently met and did not include the request in its agenda.

Isnehart said outcomes from the upcoming midterm election could play a role in sparking more conversation.

It's been more than a decade since Iowa government broadly looked at climate change. Recently, GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds has focused on carbon sequestration.

That has led to a controversial private sector project that would transfer carbon dioxide from ethanol plants and move it underground for storage in another state.

Meanwhile, the Center for Rural Affair's Policy Director Johnathan Hladik said the ripple effect from climate change in farming communities is getting too big to ignore.

"Agriculture is a core pillar of Iowa's economy and when farmers suffer, so does the rest of the state," said Hladik. "Farmers often, when they have income, they're spending that in that rural community. And so, whenever that money stops flowing, whether it's because of a flood or a derecho or drought, is something that should get lawmakers' attention."

Hladik said smaller farming communities could encounter worsening population trends if farmers see more losses due to weather events. And he said he feels this isn't as divisive of an issue as some might think.

"Ag leaders are ready for it," said Hladik, "leaders in the manufacturing industry are ready for it, certainly the local elected leaders in some of these towns that are dealing with the derecho or dealing with floods are ready for it."

Click here to listen to the interview.

Feature photo: Damage from Iowa derecho in 2020 | Photo by Kayla Bergman